Woody Allen film starring Owen Wilson opens Cannes
CANNES, France Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" kicked off the Cannes Film Festival on a lighthearted note Wednesday, but controversy already was brewing over several politically oriented films.
"Midnight" is one of Allen's more amusing entries of the past few years, but like most of his later films, it lacks the existentially tortured protagonist and any larger philosophical debate.
Instead, it's an homage to Paris — a romp through the city's intellectual and artistic history.
Dallas native Owen Wilson plays Gil, a screenwriter who has accompanied his wife-to-be and his prospective in-laws on a trip to Paris. The in-laws pose big problems for Gil, especially because they're tea party Republicans who disdain anything French.
Wilson's Gil, meanwhile, romanticizes Paris as a city that could inspire him to complete a long-gestating novel, much to the dismay of his fiancée (Rachel McAdams), who wants him to continue his lucrative screenwriting job in Hollywood.
Wilson's character wants to experience all of the city's charms and begins to take solo walks at midnight. To explain the plot further would be to spoil a surprise, and the notes distributed before Wednesday's screening scrupulously avoided giving away any details.
At a news conference after the screening, Allen praised Wilson as the perfect person for the role. The director apparently thinks the former University of Texas student represents laid-back, West Coast beach boys, as he told reporters.
Wilson looked mildly amused during Allen's comments but said nothing to contradict the director.
Despite reports to the contrary, French first lady Carla Bruni did not show up to talk about her cameo in "Midnight in Paris." She plays a museum guide who gets into a dispute with an insufferable American.
The French press speculated that Bruni had just learned that she was pregnant with twins. But her absence just as easily could be related to a controversy involving President Nicolas Sarkozy.
He's the subject of "The Conquest," which looks at his rise to power amid the breakup of his marriage to Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz, who left him for another man shortly after Sarkozy's election.
Sarkozy is portrayed as having a Napoleonic complex about his height, and Denis Podalydes wears a big, puffed-up wig while playing the president.
The film, which some newspapers predict will be a huge embarrassment for Sarkozy, premieres as part of the official selection Wednesday, but it will not compete for the Palme d'Or.
Another movie, "Unlawful Killing," has the British press up in arms. The documentary, directed by Keith Allen and backed by Mohammed al-Fayed, deals with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her companion Dodi, al-Fayed's son.
The documentary, which is screening in the Cannes Market, reportedly includes a close-up photo of Diana, taken shortly after the car crash in a Parisian underpass. The documentary contends that the royal family played a role in Diana's death.
British newspapers have criticized the film, writing that it has a ridiculous premise and that its premiere is ill-timed, coming on the heels of the recent marriage of her son Prince William to Kate Middleton.
In yet another political dustup, Cannes organizers have decided to hold special screenings of movies by two Iranian directors who were recently sentenced to jail.
Cannes says the films by Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were made in "semi-clandestine conditions" and represent their political resistance to the Iranian regime.
Both directors were sentenced in December to six years in prison and barred from filmmaking for 20 years, primarily because Iran sees them as enemies of the government.
Panahi's movie is titled "In Film Nist," or "This Is Not a Film," and deals with the director's earlier house arrest. Rasoulof's film, "Goodbye," deals with a Tehran lawyer who's seeking a visa to leave the country but ends up being arrested.